Mary & George Part 2 - AD Introduction

Mary & George Part 2 - AD Introduction

This is an audio described introduction to Mary & George, Episodes 5 - 7.

Early in Episode 5, Mary attends a royal banquet where we learn that she has a new title: The Countess of Buckingham. George has become the Marquess of Buckingham; reflecting his privileged position as the King’s undisputed favourite, following the demise of the Earl of Somerset.

The Buckinghams’ elevated status brings with it a new house for Mary in London, bought for her by the King. The sprawling medieval residence features high ceilings and tall glass windows; considered an expensive luxury in Jacobean times.  Rugs and tapestries are draped over wood-panelled floors and walls. Lion statues and gold and silver decorative platters adorn a central drawing room where the family stands while an artist paints their portrait.

Both Mary and George have become more refined in their style of dress. Now on equal terms with the rest of the royal court, Mary’s outfits still catch the eye but she’s more at ease in her finery. At the banquet, sitting beside Queen Anne, she wears a muted blue and pearlescent white patterned gown with a single string of pearls around her neck and a delicate lace Medici collar.

George’s clothing reflects his new rank: diagonal sash belts, medallions, and various capes, usually draped over one shoulder.  His outfits feature large ‘floppy’ lace collars; an increasingly popular alternative to the ruff that became fashionable in the early 17th century. Jewel-encrusted buttons and pendants are another staple of his wardrobe, complementing the King’s ceremonial medals and the metallic threads of his quilted doublets. The passing of time is marked by George’s changing hairstyle; his short tidy cut replaced in Episode 6 by loose, shoulder-length waves that hang from a centre parting.

Mary’s other children, who’ve gained status alongside their mother, are present at royal events and wear sumptuous outfits for their portrait sitting. Susan’s wild tresses are neatly pinned up and adorned with jewels. Kit and John, like their brother, sport longer hairstyles in the later episodes, with lace-frilled cuffs to match their overstated collars.

John’s teenage bride, Frances, is pale-skinned and chestnut haired. No longer living in her mother’s shadow, she finds her voice in Episode 5, and is usually downcast and pouting. Lady Katherine Manners is introduced at the banquet; Mary has her in mind as a potential wife for George. She has long ringlets; dark blond with a hint of red; a petite figure, piercing grey-blue eyes and an air of intelligent confidence about her. Mary’s secret lover, Sandie, has become her Lady in Waiting. She appears at the banquet in a green and gold silk dress with lace trim and pearls.

King James’s 18 year old son, Prince Charles, comes into focus as his readiness for succession is questioned by the King in front of the banqueting guests. He’s painfully shy; shrinking into himself during an exhibitionist display from the King, and gripping his mother’s hand tightly while under the scrutiny of the court. His slight, wispy stature, wide blue eyes and thin, twitching lips cement the impression of Charles as a reluctant heir to his father’s flamboyant throne. Two years later, in Episode 6, he’s grown a small tuft of a beard, but not shaken his boyish appearance. Entering into a diplomatic meeting in Episode 7, his small frame is dwarfed by a throne-like chair.

National and international events are brought to the King’s attention, when Sir Walter Raleigh returns from South America, having incited violence against the Spanish, defying the orders of the Crown. Raleigh has a greying beard, receding, wiry hair and an unkempt appearance. In the sweaty heat of South America, he wears a loose linen shirt. In England, he appears before the King’s Privy Council in a brown doublet with an open-collared shirt and large-buckled belt.

Raleigh’s appearance contrasts with the formality of the Privy Councillors, headed up by Sir Edward Coke. They wear ceremonial black robes, soft ‘Scots bonnet’ style hats and stiff, crinkly ruffs a few inches thick that swallow up their necks.  These same councillors appear later in parliament where they’re joined by a few dozen more men, most of whom are ageing with white moustaches. They dress formally in dark cloaks and doublets, many with older style ruffs; a handful with ‘modern’ soft collars.

Various Spanish dignitaries feature. Diego Gondomar is the Spanish Ambassador to England. He’s tanned with a neatly trimmed goatee, a thick head of silver hair and dark, confident eyes; his suave appearance completed by a golden-sleeved doublet and matching medallions. Olivares, who’s a high-ranking politician close to the Spanish crown, has a weathered face. His dark eyebrows, often furrowed, are sandwiched between a wet slick of black hair and a fuzzy moustache that’s curled up at the ends. The Spanish officials sport various ruffs and neckpieces, including a distinctive, flat saucer-like collar worn by Oilvares.

Finally, the Infanta – daughter of the Spanish King Philip – is a delicate-featured redhead, who, when we meet her, has been ‘decorated’ in stiff ivory fabrics with gold trim; her tiny waist sucked in by a corset with jewel-encrusted buttons. Dozens of pearls hang from a wire frame fitted to the underside of a chunky ruff as wide as her shoulders; they rattle slightly even while she stands in perfect disciplined stillness. Her curly hair is stacked high on top of her head and topped with a feathered headpiece.

An un-named Spanish palace hosts some important business in the final episode. Here, Gothic style archways surrounded by tiles and Christian symbolism frame the sides of a grand hall where sunlight streams through high stained glass windows. In a smaller meeting room with ruby-red walls, a series of alcoves feature elaborate gold filigree shrines.

Mary & George is showing now on Sky Atlantic, with a new episode broadcast weekly every Tuesday. Episode 5 hits screens on 2nd April.